Knockin' 'Em Down and Teaching Logs
Logs tonight. The stack of metaphoric logs waiting for the szzaaw-szzawing in my dreamy head must wait. I’m setting up the kids’ academic logs first.
Allow me to introduce you. Attila-the-Mum with penciled spear and gaveled mallet props up the little logs. (Yes, the diction, it’s the same fierce staccato one hears when “the Hun” rolls from a tongue with whispered reverence; don’t judge - the hyphens add heightened importance and I wholly recommend you try it for the children’s sake). So, Attila-Mum fills out the week's assigned work, and the kids know their job — getter done, as in, “knock ‘em down” (with mini-mallets made of math manuals). Well, most days that's how it works.
Actually, we use little check marks. The mallets really are only for bad days, when the logs get stubborn. But, mostly, the logs lay flat — paper notebooks with little squares and lots of tiny instructions. The tiny instructions keep me focused - or remind me how far behind we’ve fallen. They represent our lives — these little diaries of what we do. Certainly not the whole of our lives or of the kids’ instruction do they represent, but the logs are a constant presence. How does one ignore a log? The nature of a log makes it non-ignorable.
Compulsory. The logs are compulsory. Did I mention it?
At this point, a well-trained mind will begin to wag its head at the conjured image - kids whose days are solely measured by tiny check marks in equally tiny squares. But what’s a Mum to do? After all, it’s the log.
Submitted to and used by a state-approved evaluator to assess the efficacy of our family’s educational practice, they carry a psychological weight that molds and fashions how I’ve taught our kids, and no matter how hard I try to not be tethered and bound to these weighty logs, they still press upon us - daily. Sure, I create them, but they (theoretically) are assessed according to the state’s guidelines. Granted, there are times I’ve ignored keeping them whole weeks at a time, opting instead for a drink from a different spring that bubbles with grace. But, alas, at the end of 180 days, they still must be accurately maintained and presented. So, meticulously, I go back to the stack and “chop chop, getter done.” Then, we get to show off all the little logs "knocked" down, and everybody is happy that we've sawed a whole pile and stacked it neatly between the pages of three-ring binders.
What does it all mean, the teaching of logs? Well, it may mean we are loggers (think, moms without beards). Or, it may mean we've learned how to play school - still, without beards - in a state-approved and recognized way, and that we now are smart, another year down, and no one gets hauled away. Well, at least not the kids. Mom may need her straight jacket refitted by then, but, somehow, the kids seem fine.
Or maybe these logs and my struggle with them symbolically represent a longing for something more authentic and true. Something whole-hearted. A life well-lived beyond the log. (Note: maybe the “log” in your path is your kids’ pending standardized test; every year it’s what trips you up and makes you less brave, less confident to pursue what your heart tells you is good and true and beautiful for your children). Maybe the logs and the longing instinctively create a tension which underscores our need.
“Now to get Wisdom.”
The Wiseman penned it with urgency.
Could Wisdom resolve the tension and satisfy the craving for goodness in our schools - each day?
How do I write that down onto these logs? (That is, those tiny bits of Wisdom that call out to us, when we do not teach logs? At least, last time I checked, I do not actually teach logs though it’s quite uncanny how a paper log can morph into my treatment of a living, breathing child.)
To get wisdom: It means letting go of things we’ve assessed as important according to the wisdom of our age. It means embracing the Wisdom that is first of all peaceable. (James 3:17)
There is nothing peaceable when a log breathes like a demoniac upon your shoulder. No, that’s just plain scary. So, to make peace with heavy logs, I suggest we lay them down. Write them if you must, if the state requires it, or take that test, but lay them aside. And get Wisdom. Recognize her. Cultivate her. And remember how she looks if you’re not sure: Pure and peaceable, gentle and reasonable; yes, she’s merciful and fruitful-good, impartial and sincere.
And may I suggest this? Each time the log or the pending standardized test pops into your thoughts and messes with how you hope to love and teach your children, may your own inner Attila-Mum pause, may she bow and worship the God of all Wisdom, may she pray to him, and may she let his Spirit transform, guide, and strengthen her. And, yes, while getting Wisdom, may she remember this about the tiny squares and checks: To study Latin is beautiful. To copy or memorize a single line of poetry, it is sublime. And, to trace clumsy, awkward letters with a pudgy, small hand ensconced is holy.
Whether your state law requires logs or whether you keep them to maintain some semblance of structure, remember this admonition, and allow it to guide your planning this year:
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)
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